Recently, whilst out on a lark without the Toddler, I found myself at the supermarket loading up the checkout conveyer belt with several jumbo packs of nappies (40% off – score!).
As he politely scanned, I could sense the sweet, 15-year-old behind the register wanting to ask something. Before long, a nervous half-smile spread across his face and he finally came out with it.
“Are you…going to a baby shower?”
I laughed, thinking what a crappy baby shower that would be (pun intended). “No, these are for my toddler,” I responded.
“Oh, you have a toddler?” he continued. “…I thought that maybe you were pregnant.”
Well, let me tell you that nothing brings the people together like a ‘when’s the baby due’ disaster.
Both me and the man standing behind me waiting to have his half-loin of pork and doomsday-prepper-bulk-pack-of-water-bottles scanned, looked at each other and erupted in laughter.
“Oh, mate – you never ask that question!” the man said.
“Yes, even if someone is out to here,” I said, motioning out from my belly to a comical degree. “And in this case, no, it’s just a big lunch in there.”
We all laughed, and the boy took our advice/public-shaming in good humour (though the colour had decidedly drained from his face). As I walked away – battling a trolley with a wonky wheel and holding one hand atop my prized mountain of discounted nappies – I could hear doomsday-prepper mate continue the conversation, regaling the boy with the time he made the fatal mistake of asking that illicit question and the horrors that befell him.
I like to think the boy learned a valuable lesson that day; even if it was just to never make conversation with people (a very good lesson IMO).
Anyway, it got me thinking about all the other things I’ve been asked that you probably should never be asked. And unfortunately in most of these cases, I didn’t have the benefit of a doomsday-prepper mate on hand to back me up like some sort of Angel of ‘Nup’ to explain why the question or comment was both (a) stupid; (b) likely to result in a smack upside the head; or (c) a little from column (a) and (b).
So without further ado, I present for your consideration a random collection of actual, real comments straight from the Nup pile:
- You look like you enjoy a good meal.
One day as I ate lunch at my desk, I made the mistake of making eye contact with a partner as he passed by my office. He popped into the doorframe as he was known to do, and asked what I was eating. “Polenta and veggies,” I politely responded. “Oh,” he continued, “are you vegetarian?”
“Sometimes,” I smiled, my mouth awkwardly half-full.
I was then treated to a protracted story about his only vegetarian friend who was very thin and pale and I didn’t seem like a vegetarian at all because…well, read the top bit.
- You should try wearing a ditsy dress, or a twinset and pearls, just to see what affect it has on your clients.
Look, I’m all for fashion. I love the fashion. I’d take fashion home to meet my parents and then totally marry it, right in the face (assuming fashion was OK with me technically staying with my actual human husband). But this is not the Devil Wears Prada, and you are not Meryl Streep. So I will not allow questionable fashion advice to be treated as even more questionable career advice. Especially since, who even wears ditsy dresses nowadays?! Puhllleeaaaase, get with the program girlfriend. It’s all about frills and combat boots, jeese.
- I assumed you were hormonal.
- How did you enjoy your holiday?
As I hopped in the elevator on my first day back from parental leave all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed (alright, so it was probably more blurry-eyed and balding-tailed – but nobody tells you about all the hair you lose after pregnancy. Why don’t they tell you?!), I encountered a chipper temp who thought he was making polite conversation with a returning employee. Let’s just say my exit from the lift was somewhat less chipper.
- You don’t look like you feel like a terrible mother…or a terrible employee.
I’d not been long back from parental leave when a mate came out with what I’m sure was a compliment wrapped in humour wrapped in rich creamery butter, but what ultimately pricked the balloon of my perspicacity. It was almost as if I’d been walking around with my fly open, and then someone finally got up the nerve to tell me the bad news. Gawd, Karen – couldn’t you have told me sooner? Happy to report I now feel healthy levels of guilt on both accounts, and am enjoying the full working mother experience. Though I do still probably enjoy my work a little too much.
But hey, nobody’s perfect.
Sarah-Elke Kraal is a Queensland Law Society Senior Legal Professional Development Executive, firstname.lastname@example.org.